United States House of Representatives
Statement Opposing the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act
December 15, 2009
I rise in strongest opposition to this new round of sanctions on Iran, which is another significant step toward a US war on that country. I find it shocking that legislation this serious and consequential is brought up in such a cavalier manner. Suspending the normal rules of the House to pass legislation is a process generally reserved for “non-controversial” business such as the naming of post offices. Are we to believe that this House takes matters of war and peace as lightly as naming post offices?
This legislation seeks to bar from doing business in the United States any foreign entity that sells refined petroleum to Iran or otherwise enhances Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum such as financing, brokering, underwriting, or providing ships for such. Such sanctions also apply to any entity that provides goods or services that enhance Iran’s ability to maintain or expand its domestic production of refined petroleum. This casts the sanctions net worldwide, with enormous international economic implications.
Recently, the Financial Times reported that, “[i]n recent months, Chinese companies have greatly expanded their presence in Iran’s oil sector. In the coming months, Sinopec, the state-owned Chinese oil company, is scheduled to complete the expansion of the Tabriz and Shazand refineries — adding 3.3 million gallons of gasoline per day.”
Are we to conclude, with this in mind, that China or its major state-owned corporations will be forbidden by this legislation from doing business with the United States? What of our other trading partners who currently do business in Iran’s petroleum sector or insure those who do so? Has anyone seen an estimate of how this sanctions act will affect the US economy if it is actually enforced?
As we have learned with US sanctions on Iraq, and indeed with US sanctions on Cuba and elsewhere, it is citizens rather than governments who suffer most. The purpose of these sanctions is to change the regime in Iran, but past practice has demonstrated time and again that sanctions only strengthen regimes they target and marginalize any opposition. As would be the case were we in the US targeted for regime change by a foreign government, people in Iran will tend to put aside political and other differences to oppose that threatening external force. Thus this legislation will likely serve to strengthen the popularity of the current Iranian government. Any opposition continuing to function in Iran would be seen as operating in concert with the foreign entity seeking to overthrow the regime.
This legislation seeks to bring Iran in line with international demands regarding its nuclear materials enrichment programs, but what is ironic is that Section 2 of HR 2194 itself violates the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which both the United States and Iran are signatories. This section states that “[i]t shall be the policy of the United States…to prevent Iran from achieving the capability to make nuclear weapons, including by supporting international diplomatic efforts to halt Iran’s uranium enrichment program.” Article V of the NPT states clearly that, “[n]othing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty.” As Iran has never been found in violation of the NPT — has never been found to have diverted nuclear materials for non-peaceful purposes — this legislation seeking to deny Iran the right to enrichment even for peaceful purposes itself violates the NPT.
Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that many of my colleagues opposing war on Iran will vote in favor of this legislation, seeing it as a step short of war to bring Iran into line with US demands. I would remind them that sanctions and the blockades that are required to enforce them are themselves acts of war according to international law. I urge my colleagues to reject this saber-rattling but ultimately counterproductive legislation.
Legislation: Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (H.R. 2194)
Ron Paul: The chairman states that the main purpose of this bill is to prevent the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon. That isn’t even as powerful a statement as was made that enticed us into the Iraq war. There was the claim that they already had [weapons], but now this is a pretense. And yet here we are taking these drastic steps. My main reason for opposing this bill is that I think it’s detrimental to our national security. There is no other reason. It doesn’t serve our interests. So I am absolutely opposed to it.
In the late 1930s and the early 1940s the American people did not want to go into war. But there were some that were maneuvering us into war and they used the argument that you needed an event. So in June of 1941 sanctions were put against Japan, incidentally and ironically to prohibit oil products from going into Japan. Within 6 months there was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And there are now talks, there has been talk in the media and we’ve heard about it – “we need to bomb Iran.” And that’s what the people hear. The sanctions are a use of force. This is just not modest, this is very serious. And the way this is written, it literally could end up with a blockade, it could be trying to punish our friends and cut of trade. And this cannot help us in any way.
We would like to help the dissidents, we’d like to encourage them to overthrow their government. But hardly should we have our CIA with U.S. funded programs going in there with a policy of regime change. They know these kinds of things happen. We’ve been involved in this business in Iran since 1953, and it doesn’t serve us well. It backfires on us, it comes back to haunt us. One of the goals explicitly expressed by Al-Qaida and their leaders has been that they would like to draw us into the Middle East because it would cost us a lot of money and it could hurt us financially. And the second reason they wanted us over there is to get us bogged down in an endless war. And for the last decade that is what we’ve been doing. We are bogged down to the point where it is very discouraging to the American people, very frustrating, no signs of victory, no signs of peace. But we’re bogged down. These were precise goals of the Al-Qaida leadership.
And also, one of the purposes of enticing us over there and being involved is to give a greater incentive to recruit those individuals who become violent against us. And this has been unbelievably successful. So we’ve been involved in Iraq, we’ve been involved in Afghanistan, we’re bombing Pakistan. And this is almost like another bonus for those who want us to be attacked, is that we are over there and just fomenting this anger and hatred towards us. That is why I believe this is not in our best interest. It actually hurts us.
Once we say that we are going to do something like using force and prevent vital products to go in, it means that we’ve given up on diplomacy. Diplomacy is out of the window. And they’re not capable of attacking us. This idea that they’re on the verge of a bomb that our CIA said they haven’t been working on since 2003. And the other thing is, if you want to give him an incentive to have a bomb, just keep pestering them like this, just intimidate them, provoke them. This is provocative. They might have a greater incentive than ever. They can’t even make enough gasoline for themselves. I mean, they are not a threat. They don’t have an army worth anything. They don’t have a navy, they don’t have an airforce. They don’t have inter-continental ballistic missiles. So it is not a threat to our national security. I see the threat to our national security with this type of policy which could come and backfire and hurt us.
I want to read number 5 in the bill, that particular item because it makes my case. Rather than making the case for those who want these sanctions, I think this literally makes my case. Number 5 said:
(5) On October 7, 2008, then-Senator Obama stated, “Iran right now imports gasoline, even though it’s an oil producer, because its oil infrastructure has broken down. If we can prevent them from importing the gasoline that they need and the refined petroleum products, that starts changing their cost-benefit analysis. That starts putting the squeeze on them.”
The squeeze on whom? On the people. This will unify the Iranian people against us. If we want to encourage true dissent and overthrow that government which is more spontaneous and honest, I would say this is doing exactly the opposite.
Ron Paul: I think the gentleman. If the gentleman from California didn’t like my analogy about how we were maneuvered into war in World War II, I think it might be much more appropriate to compare it to the sanctions on Iraq. There were those in the 1990s that wanted us to go to war with Iraq. They were looking for an excuse. We put strong sanctions, continued flying over their country and bombing. Thousands if not hundreds of thousands of kids died because of those sanctions. And eventually they got their war and we ended up in the war. Anybody who believes that taking gasoline away from the common person in Iran is going to motivate them to get rid of their Ayatollah … it’s the Ayatollah that carries the power. That’s not going to happen. It just does exactly the opposite. So this is why I believe this is a much greater threat to our national security. It does not help us. It doesn’t achieve the goals that are set out.
For instance, we now commonly say that the Iranians have no right to enrich. Well, they signed a non-proliferation treaty and they have not ever been told that they are making a bomb. And yet what we’re saying in this bill is they can’t enrich anymore. So, in a way, you’re violating international law by saying they can’t enrich – period. So that is just looking for trouble.
Now what else this bill will do is it is going to push the support of the Iranians in another direction. It’s going to push them towards India, towards China, Russia. And these countries have special associations with Iran. So we’re going to separate us. We’ll be isolated from that and they’re going to have a much closer alliance with these countries. That will not serve our interests. It’s going to serve the interests of one country mostly, and that’s China. China almost acts like a capitalist, they take our dollars they’ve earned from us and they’re spending the dollars over there. They would like to buy the oil and refine the oil and drill the oil. But here we assume that we have to do it through force, through sanctions and threats and intimidation and secret maneuvers to overthrow their regime. It just doesn’t work. It sounds good, it sounds easy, but it does backfire on us. You get too many unintended consequences. And besides, our national security does not depend on what we do in the Middle East. Our national security is threatened by this.
I mean, we are overstretched. We are broke. And this is part of the strategy, as I mentioned before. Our archenemies in that region want to bankrupt us. And they want to stir up hate against us and they want to bog us down and they’re achieving what their goals are.
Mr. Speaker: The gentleman’s time has expired.
Ron Paul: I talked to somebody today that would be voting for these, but admitted that they won’t work and it’s mere symbolism. So already they don’t think these will do much good, even those who will vote for it. It’s impossible to enforce is one reason and it will create a black market and these particular sanctions are most difficult to enforce just because of the nature of the way it’s written.
One must understand a little bit about the pressures put on this country to act in a defensive way. They happen to be surrounded by a lot of nuclear bombs. And they don’t have a history, the Iranians, as bad as they are for their leadership and how bad their regime is, they are not expansionist territorially. How many years has it been since they invaded another country for the purpose of taking over another country? It’s just not in recent history at all.
But the countries around them, India. India has nuclear weapons. China has nuclear weapons, Pakistan, Israel and the United States. I mean, they’re all around them so I’m sure they feel like a cornered rat.
But what I see here is propaganda. Propaganda to build fear in the people, to prepare the people for what is likely to come just as we did in the 1990s. Fear that there were weapons of mass destruction, but this one is, “well someday they might get a weapon of mass destruction”. And unfortunately I am just really concerned that this is going to lead to hostilities. Because this is the initiation, the fear is building up.
So too often in this country we talk of peace at the same time that we pursue war. We pursue war and we use these efforts to push our policies on others. And quite frankly, we don’t have any more money to pursue this policy; whether it’s used by the militarism or even try to buy friends by giving them a lot of money. It just doesn’t work. I urge a no vote on this resolution in the interest of the United States’ security.
Mr. Speaker: The gentleman’s time has expired.